What should every couple know before they get married? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Jen Elmquist, Lic. Marriage and Family Therapist, Relationship Specialist:
When couples come to me for pre-commitment therapy, we cover a variety of topics: financial management, sexual desires and concerns, family and friend involvement, household chore delegation, career aspirations, parenting philosophies and even what they like to do in their downtime. We then go so far as to review personality traits and discuss how the families they grew up in were similar and different. All of these are important, level setting conversations to have ahead of time. And, they all have one thing in common, they make sure expectations are voiced and discussed.
On top of this work, there are also five critical areas I always normalize for couples to prepare them for what lies ahead:
1. Things will change: No one remains "the person I first fell in love with" forever. You and your partner are going to evolve over the years, and as a result, your relationship will need to adapt and even create a new version of "us" to survive.
2. You will have chronic conflicts: Research exposes that all couples in long-term relationships will have 2-3 recurring conflicts that will go the distance in the relationship. This problem would be the same even if you were to find a new partner. So, learning how to process conflict well, and at times, agreeing to disagree is critical.
3. Patterns will develop: Over time you will develop patterns or a way of dancing in this relationship together that will become predictable and at times monotonous. Pay attention to the patterns you create and change them if you need to.
4. Love is an action word: There will absolutely be times in your relationship where you will just not be feeling it for each other. The feeling of love in a long-term relationship ebbs and flows. However, love in action operates beyond feeling. It resides in the realms of compassion, empathy, loyalty, trust, grace, kindness, and mercy.
5. A lifelong relationship is an asset: Marriage is not for the faint at heart. It will stretch you, challenge you, wound you, and heal you. There will be times you will want to and even feel justified in cashing it in. But, just like a 401k, the compound interest isn't fully realized until you have held onto it for years.
After over a decade practicing and teaching couples therapy, Jen Elmquist developed the Relationship Reset project to get to couples before they needed to see her. Find out more and support your relationship at jenelmquist.com or read her book Relationship Reset.